Hare Krishna (mantra)

The Hare Krishna mantra, also referred to reverentially as the Mahā-mantra ("Great Mantra"), is a 16-word Vaishnava mantra which is mentioned in the Kali-Santarana Upanishad[1] and which from the 15th century rose to importance in the Bhakti movement following the teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. This mantra is composed of two Sanskrit names of the Supreme Being, "Krishna" and "Rama".[2][3]

Hare Krishna (Maha Mantra) in Devanagari (devanāgarī) script
Hare Krishna (Maha Mantra) in Bengali language

Since the 1960s, the mantra has been made well known outside India by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his movement, International Society for Krishna Consciousness (commonly known as the "Hare Krishnas" or the Hare Krishna movement).[4]


The Hare Krishna mantra is composed of Sanskrit names in the singular vocative case: Hare, Krishna, and Rama (in Anglicized spelling). It is a poetic stanza in anuṣṭubh meter (a quatrain of four lines (pāda) of eight syllables with certain syllable lengths for some of the syllables).

The actual mantra in the Upanishad is as follows:[1][5]

Hare Rāma Hare Rāma
Rāma Rāma Hare Hare
Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa
Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare

Kali-Saṇṭāraṇa Upaniṣad

When Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu promulgated the Mahamantra, it was rendered with Krishna's name's first.

Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa
Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare
Hare Rāma Hare Rāma
Rāma Rāma Hare Hare

Transliteration of mantra using iTranslator[6] (without capitalized):

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa

kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma

rāma rāma hare hare

Pronunciation of mantra in IPA (Sanskrit):

ɦɐreː kr̩ʂɳɐ ɦɐreː kr̩ʂɳɐ
kr̩ʂɳɐ kr̩ʂɳɐ ɦɐreː ɦɐreː
ɦɐreː raːmɐ ɦɐreː raːmɐ
raːmɐ raːmɐ ɦɐreː ɦɐreː

Sanskrit is a polysemic language and as such, this mantra has multiple interpretations all of which may be considered as correct. "Hare" can be interpreted as either the vocative form of Hari, another name of Vishnu meaning "he who removes illusion". Another interpretation is as the vocative of Harā,[7] a name of Rādhā,[8] Krishna's eternal consort or His energy (Krishna's Shakti). According to A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Harā refers to "the energy/shakti of Supreme Personality of Godhead" while Krishna and Rama refer to Supreme Godhead Himself, meaning "He who is All-Attractive" and "He who is the Source of All Pleasure".[9][10] In the hymn Vishnu Sahasranama spoken by Bhishma in praise of Krishna after the Kurukshetra War, Krishna is also called Rama.[11]

It is sometimes believed that "Rama" in "Hare Rama" means "Radharamana" or the beloved of Radha (another name for Kṛṣṇa). The more common interpretation is that Rāma refers to Rama of the Ramayana, an earlier avatar of Krishna. "Rama can also be a shortened form of Balarama, Krishna's first expansion."[12] The mantra is repeated, either sung out loud (bhajan), congregationally (kirtan), or to oneself aloud or mentally on prayer beads made of Tulasi (japa). A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami describes the process of chanting the Maha Mantra as follows:

Krishna consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind; this consciousness is the original energy of the living entity. When we hear the transcendental vibration, this consciousness is revived ...[]... This chanting of 'Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare' is directly enacted from the spiritual platform, and thus this sound vibration surpasses all lower strata of consciousness – namely sensual, mental, and intellectual ...[]... As such anyone can take part in the chanting without any previous qualification.[13]


The mantra is first attested in the Kali-Saṇṭāraṇa Upaniṣad (Kali Santarana Upanishads), a Vaishnava Upanishad written by Raghunandan Bhattacharya. [14] In this Upanishad, Narada is instructed by Brahma (in the translation of K. N. Aiyar):

Hearken to that which all Shrutis (the Vedas) keep secret and hidden, through which one may cross the Saṃsāra (mundane existence) of Kali. He shakes off (the evil effects of) Kali through the mere uttering of the name of Lord Narayana, who is the primeval Purusha.

Narada asks to be told this name of Narayana, and Brahma replies:

Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare; these sixteen names are destructive of the evil effects of Kali.[15] No better means than this is to be seen in all the Vedas.

The mantra was popularized by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu roughly around 1500 C.E. when he began his mission to spread this mantra publicly to "every town and village" in the world, travelling throughout India, and especially within the areas of Bengal and Odisha.[16] Some versions of the Kali Santarana Upanishad give the mantra with Hare Rama preceding Hare Krishna (as quoted above), and others with Hare Krishna preceding Hare Rama, as in Navadvipa version of the manuscript. The latter format is by far the more common within the Vaishnava traditions.[17] It is a common belief that the mantra is equally potent when spoken in either order.[18]

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a devotee of Krishna in disciplic succession, on the order of his guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, brought the teachings of Sri Chaitanya from Bharat (India) and single-handedly took the responsibility of spreading them around the Western world. Beginning in New York City 1965, he encircled the globe fourteen times in the final eleven years of his life, thus making 'Hare Krishna' a well-known phrase in many parts of the world.[19]

Hippie culture

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Hare Krishnas became confused with the hippie counterculture. This was an erroneous association, as the ideals of these groups are quite different. Although Prabhupada was open to anyone becoming a member of the Hare Krishnas, they had to follow the four regulative principles, one of which is strict abstention from intoxicants, including marijuana.[20] These four principles (or "Four Commandments" as Srila Prabhupada once referred to them), are:

  • no meat eating, including fish or eggs
  • no gambling
  • no intoxication or use of stimulants (including caffeine)
  • no illicit sex

Spiritual elevation and joy are to be derived from chanting God's holy names.

The Broadway musical Hair has a song, "Hare Krishna", containing the mantra, along with some additional lyrics.

The Hare Krishna Tree, an American Elm in Tompkins Square Park, New York City, under which Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada began the first recorded public chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra outside India.[21]

The Hare Krishna mantra appears in a number of famous songs, notably those of George Harrison. His first solo single "My Sweet Lord" reached the No. 1 spot on the UK Singles Charts. Harrison put a Hare Krishna sticker on the back of the headstock of Eric Clapton's 1964 Gibson ES-335; the sticker also appears on Gibson's 2005 reproduction of the guitar.

Produced by Harrison, Radha Krishna Temple's recording "Hare Krishna Mantra" was issued as a single on the Beatles' Apple record label in 1969. The single was a commercial success, peaking at No. 12 in the UK, and led to the Temple devotees appearing on the popular British music chart television programme Top of the Pops.

The mantra also prominently appears in Jesus Loves You's "Bow Down Mister" (1990) and in the Pretenders' "Boots of Chinese Plastic" from their 2008 album, Break Up the Concrete.[22] Stevie Wonder used the devotees chanting Hare Krishna in his song "Pastime Paradise".

Less well-known recordings of the Hare Krishna mantra include versions by the Fugs on their 1968 album Tenderness Junction (featuring poet Allen Ginsberg), by Nina Hagen, in multiple songs by English psychedelic rock band Quintessence (produced by John Barham, a frequent collaborator of George Harrison) and by Hüsker Dü on their 1984 album Zen Arcade.[23] Kula Shaker, Boy George, and members of the Rubettes have recorded music tracks about Krishna Consciousness.

In a 2010 experimental study involving both devotees and non-devotees, singing vowels like "ah" and "eh" was found to be more joyful than singing vowels like "oh" and "uh", possibly due to a facial feedback effect.[24]

Scriptural references

The practice of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra is recommended in the Puranas, the Pancharatra, and throughout Vaishnava literature in general.[25] For example:

All the grievous sins are removed for one who worships Lord Hari, the Lord of all lords, and chants the holy name, the Maha-mantra.

Padma Purana, 3.50.6

When the sixteen names and thirty-two syllables of the Hare Krishna mantra are loudly vibrated, Krishna dances on one's tongue

Stava-mala-vidyabhusana-bhasya, Baladeva Vidyabhushana in Bhaktisiddhanta's Gaudiya Kanthahara 17:30

… [Anyone] can immediately become eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices if he once utters the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead or chants about Him, hears about His pastimes, offers Him obeisances or even remembers Him."

Bhagavata Purana, 3:33 6

See also


  1. Beck 1993, p. 199.
  2. "Hare Krishna mantra". Krishna.
  3. "Chant and be happy". iskcon. Archived from the original on 20 October 2017. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
  4. Religion Encyclopedia – Hare Krishna (ISKCON) Archived 1 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  5. "Contents of the Kali-Saṇṭāraṇa Upaniṣad". www.wisdomlib.org. 16 April 2018. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  6. "Omkaranand Ashram Himalayas".
  7. Meditations on the Hare Krishna Mahamantra "[Hare] = O Hari!...." & "Because she steals Krishna's mind and because she is the embodiment of Krishna's divine joy, Sri Radha is known as Harā. Hare is the vocative form of that name".
  8. Rosen, S. (2006). Essential Hinduism. Praeger Publishers. ISBN 0-275-99006-0.P.4: It was preserved in the confidential sampradayas, or esoteric lineages, that were guardian to these truths from the beginning. p.244: In a more esoteric sense, the word "Hare" is a vocative form of "Harā," which refers to Mother Harā, or Sri Radha.
  9. "The word Harā is a form of addressing the energy of the Lord, and the words Krishna and Rama (which mean "the highest pleasure eternal") are forms of addressing the Lord Himself." – A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. See Krishna.com article.
  10. Gaudiya.com – Practice "Rama is another name for Him [Krishna], meaning the one who brings delight to Radha".
  11. T. V. Gopal (2000). Hrishikesa: Krishna – A Natural Evolution. Parkland, Fla: Universal Publishers. p. 101. ISBN 1-58112-732-4.
  12. Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi-5.132 Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine "if someone says that the "Rama" in "Hare Rama" is Lord Ramacandra and someone else says that the "Rama" in "Hare Rama" is Sri Balarama, both are correct".
  13. For the original text, see this Krishna.com Archived 30 October 2005 at the Wayback Machine article.
  14. "The Prominence of Hari-Naam in Hinduism: Benefits of Chanting "Hare Krishna" Mahamantra". NewsGram. 3 June 2020.
  15. Kalisantarana Upanishat
  16. gaudiya.com.
  17. Steven J. Rosen, Vaiṣṇavism: contemporary scholars discuss the Gauḍīya tradition ISBN 81-208-1235-2, p. 274.
  18. No Water in the Desert Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine Bombay, 12 December 1974: "Sometimes they first of all place "Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." And sometimes they place "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna..." There is no difference. Sometimes they say, "No, it should be Hare Rama first." Sometimes they..., "No, Hare Krsna." But that is not very important".
  19. Biography of Srila Prabhupada Archived 16 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. Hare Krishnas and ISKCON Archived 28 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine "These physical pleasures, the eating of fish, meat or eggs, the use of intoxicants, illicit sex, and gambling and frivoulous sports, are called the four regulative principles. Because of the rejection of these pleasures, Krishnas practice a strict vegetarian lifestyle."
  21. Hare Krishna Tree.
  22. "Pretenders – Boots of Chinese Plastic Lyrics". Metrolyrics.com. Retrieved 1 November 2009.
  23. Radha Krsna Temple.
  24. Böttger, D. (2010) To say "Krishna" is to smile – emotion psychology and the neurology of mantra singing. In "The Varieties of Ritual Experience" (ed. Jan Weinhold & Geoffrey Samuel) in the series "Ritual Dynamics and the Science of Ritual", Volume II: "Body, performance, agency and experience". Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz. Video summary
  25. References to the Maha Mantra (pdf).


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